I’ve been struggling to manage a tension lately between contentment and my constant (and perhaps idealistic) desire for improvement. I seem to always want things to be better. Call it perfectionism or whatever you want, I just always seem to see ways to improve and desire to implement those ways. I remember getting my ACT scores back when I was in high school and paying the extra money to get back my answers. I wanted to see where I’d fallen short, and when I realized the silliness of the mistakes I’d made, I knew I could do better. I even thought about taking the test again to improve my score, to reach that perfect 36, even though doing so would have had absolutely no bearing on my college choices or scholarship options, my upcoming marriage (yes, I was processing wedding bells and Pomp & Circumstance at the same time), or any other aspect of my life. It was just a desire to do better.
I’ve carried that penchant for improvement with me throughout my life and work, which has mostly been helpful, but is sometimes really frustrating. (Maybe even more frustrating for those that get stuck working and living with me… sorry.) People sometimes get annoyed with my tendency to expect better, because in the church, contentment is held as one of the highest of virtues. Paul, himself, hoisted the banner of contentment several times in his writings to the Christians in Philippi and to Timothy.
I’ve asked friends to be praying for how I handle the frustrations that have come up in the current struggle, but lately have come to a conclusion: Contentment with anything less than what God wants is not a virtue. It’s sin and I don’t want to go there.
Doesn’t God deserve our best? Not just settling for our “best efforts”, but working diligently and intelligently for the best results possible. I know I don’t earn anything from Him with my incremental improvements in ministry techniques or tactics. I’m not trying to get a better score on some Kingdom entrance exam – in Christ, my score is already a 36. I’m in! But in light of what that has cost Him, doesn’t He deserve me doing my best AND working to gain the capacity to do better?
It’s one thing to be satisfied with a job well done, but it’s something else to think we’re finished with the work. When does contentment creep its way into that dank and squalid hole of complacency?